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Coin-Op Brings Brings Innovative Cocktails and Classic Games to the Gaslamp

Michele Willard’s menu is both fun and sophisticated


At Coin-Op, sip on a craft cocktail and play some Skee-Ball. | Photo: Kelly Davis

Coin-Op’s new Gaslamp location is an homage to all things ’80s, from the Activision-inspired racing stripes on the floor to the burnt-orange Naugahyde chairs around the bar (I don’t know for sure that they’re Naugahyde, but for authenticity’s sake, let’s pretend they are). The cocktails, though, are forward-thinking. Creator Michele Willard (Craft & Commerce, Bracero, Urbn) have found ways to weave her favorite spirits into drinks that are fun and approachable.

“You see a lot of rhum agricole, sherry, a lot of mezcal,” she says. “I’m using digestifs, I’m using charcoal. I’m using a lot of things you see in the craft cocktail community, but introducing them in a practical way for downtown.”

The Green Goblin. | Photo: Michele Willard

Two of her favorites on the 12-drink menu are the Kryptonite (rhum agricole, lime, kiwi syrup, and Chareau Aloe liqueur) and the Green Goblin (Moroccan mint-infused caçhaca, Cocchi Americano, lime, orgeat, and Chareau Aloe). Chareau is an increasingly popular California-made spirit, distilled from grapes and flavored with aloe vera, cucumber, spearmint, lemon peel, and muskmelon. It adds lightness to a cocktail but also, as Willard points out, gives it a nice backbone.

Cocktails made with activated charcoal have been popular for the visual effect, but Willard uses almond charcoal in the Good vs. Evil — a take on a classic sour — to add some dryness and bring out the layers of flavor. It gives the cocktail an otherworldly gray hue. Garnished with micro mums, it’s a very pretty drink.

If you’re looking for a quiet place to enjoy a cocktail, Coin-Op might not be for you. It riffs off the arcades of the ’80s — loud music, lots of visual stimuli. Go to play classic video games, pinball, or Skee-Ball — all the games are outfitted with drink holders (and on Sunday, Sept. 3, from noon to 2 a.m., all games are free). There are also several communal tables with inset video games for larger parties and some really nice punch bowls to share.

“It’s not pretentious,” Willard says. “It’s a fun atmosphere you can feel comfortable in.”

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